How can I become faster at changing chords?

The first time you sit down with your guitar you are immediately confronted with the technical difficulty of the instrument. With the goal of playing songs in mind, most beginners quickly realize that strumming represents the fastest road to playing complete songs. However, first attempts at changing among chords can be frustrating. If you are having trouble changing chords then read this answer. Herein you’ll find the bad news, the good news….and a plan!

The Bad News –

This process just takes time…unfortunately.

It is the mechanism of getting your fingers to do what your brain wants. This is very difficult because your fingers aren’t used to moving that precisely. This is compounded by the fact that, as a beginner, you are using your uncoordinated left hand. Depending on how large or small your hand is (and how you hold your guitar), and how your brain is wired, you will find that different chords will be easier or harder for form.

The Good News –

All is possible with a little bit of practice and time! We all learn at different rates. One of your friends may get it down in a week. Another friend might take a year. You might take three months. Just be patient and be confident. I did it at the age of 32 and I am no particularly great talent…even that is giving myself too much credit. So believe me, if I can do it you can do it.

When I talk to people who say they tried to play guitar and couldn’t do it. My first thought is “Hogwash!” My second thought is “You just needed a better plan!”

The Plan –

If I were to start it all again here is what I would do:

1) Get a metronome. A cheap one will do or you can use the great one we have on this site (Check the Tools section.) Make sure that you get one that at list has a “wood block” or other tolerable sounds. The piezo chirpy ones are really annoying. You can also spend a little more and get a drum machine which will make things a bit more fun. Old keyboards (like the one your sister got for Christmas 3 years ago) tend to have nice 100 pattern drum machines.

2) Go to WalMart and get a GripMaster (Light or Medium) for like $10. It’ll help build strength for barre chords. Use for 10 minutes at 3x a week. (STANDARD DISCLAIMER: Do not overuse and do not overexert yourself. Your goal is conditioning of your muscles, not annihilation. There are lots of stories of people hurting themselves by trying to move to fast. You have officially been warned….)

I am going to break this down by level because some people learn slower/faster than others. Once you can do level one, go to level two.

The important thing is not to overwhelm yourself. Take it easy. Don’t go to level 2 before you can do level 1. Don’t think that you’ll be able to sit down and play “[insert your favorite song]” right away. The hardest thing you will have to do initially is to learn to switch to a different chord ON TIME. So let’s work on that. When you have Level 1 down you’ll be able to play some songs! Don’t spend your time being frustrated with yourself, spend your time practicing. The good news is that each level gets easier because as your fingers get used to moving where you want them you’ll have an easier and easier time learning new ones.

Buying Your First Guitar

If you want to learn to play the guitar the first thing you’re going to need is a guitar, sounds obvious right.  You’re in luck though a guitar is a fairly inexpensive instrument especially when compared to other instruments.  You can grab a decent acoustic guitar for a couple of hundred bucks.  When you first walk into a music store, buying a guitar can be the scariest thing ever.  There are hundreds of guitars, how do you choose?  Let’s look at what you need to consider when you buy your first guitar.

Set up the budget

The price of a guitar can range from a couple of hundred dollars to several thousand.  You’re a beginner; you don’t need to start out with a $5,000 guitar.  You need to know how much you are willing to spend.  A couple of hundred dollars is more than enough to spend on an instrument you are going to learn with.  You can always upgrade to a higher end guitar later.

Acoustic or electric

There are lots of guitars to choose from, but there are two main types acoustic or electric.  On top of that there is bass or lead guitar, even a banjo is a type of guitar if bluegrass is the type of music you’re into.  It’s best if you know ahead of time what type of guitar you want to learn with first.  An acoustic may be easier but you can rock out with an electric.

Choosing a brand

Just like any other product on the market there are different manufacturers and brands.  The price will vary according to the brand as well.  Well-known brands like a Les Paul will give you a better quality guitar but it is going to cost you more.  You can find a happy medium between a good brand and a decent quality guitar.  Check out different brands online, check with forums to see what other players recommend and you can also ask your guitar teacher.

Screen out the bad ones

You can always bring someone with you that understand guitars and can help you find the right one.  They can try out the guitar and help you choose one that has a great sound.  When it comes to music stores the staff are usually incredibly helpful and will help you choose a guitar that works for you.  Try different chords and take a look at the structure of the guitar.

Buying a guitar isn’t complicated, just take your time and you’ll find the right one.

How to Restring Your Guitar

There are lots of guitar players who are reluctant to restring their guitars, and it is not just new guitar players either.  They are intimidated by the process thinking that it is far more complicated than it really is.  Restringing a guitar is both fairly simple and relatively quick to do.  Let’s look at how to restring your guitar so that next time you break a string you can have it fixed it no time.

The first thing you’re going to need is a place to work.   You are going to want a big enough space to hold your guitar, your kitchen table or coffee table should work just fine.  Thrown down a blanket or a cloth to make sure neither your table nor guitar ends up scratched.  You will also need a couple of tools, wire cutters, bridge pin remover and a string winder, all of which you can find at a music store.

Step 1:  Remove the old strings.  Loosen the tuning peg on your guitar enough so that you can pull the string out of its hole.  At the other end of the guitar you will need the bridge pin remover to remove the other end of the guitar string.  A bridge pin remover is not strictly necessary but it will make the job much easier.  Be very careful so that you don’t end up damaging the bridge and then needing to have your guitar repaired.  Wiggle the pin a bit to remove the string.

Step 2:  Putting in the new string.  One end of your guitar string has a small ball attached and that is the end you want to start with first.  Carefully put the ball into the bridge hole and push in the pin to hold the string in place.  Once the pin is in as far as it will go pull gently on the string to make sure it is going to stay in place.  At the other end of your guitar where the pegs are you need to put in the other end of the string into the hole of the peg.  Now you want to tighten it just enough that it isn’t loose anymore.  You can tune it later, but you want to make sure there is no “buzz” when you pluck.

That is pretty much it!  There is nothing to fear in restringing your guitar, it is quick and easy.  Here is a visual guide to help you the next time you break a string.